HARRISBURG, Ill. (April 28, 2020) – The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees virtually gathered April 22 for the monthly meeting of the members. Electronic attendance was granted per emergency powers allowed for by the State of Illinois during the pandemic crisis.
“There will be economic fallout,” said SIC President Jonah Rice. “There’s no way around that. No state in the union will be able to avoid economic challenges that impact higher education.”
The meeting was brief; a gathering to address multiple items of action. The board approved cost and change orders for a walk-in cooler freezer replacement, lighting repairs, and the batting cage protection project. A new fee was also approved for welding, due to American Welding Society certification exams.
“Having the certification gives employers confidence that students’ welding skills meet industry standards,” said SIC vice president Karen Weiss. “This obviously gives students a foot in the door and the potential for higher starting wages than someone who does not hold the certification.”
The certification exam is optional, although the majority of students completing the Welding certificate and AAS degree participate. The certification is similar to other licensure and certification exams, in that students demonstrate and meet benchmarks set by the industry for Welding skills. The certificate is recognized both nationally and internationally.
“I know that any welder with an AWS welding certification will have a very good advantage seeking employment,” SIC welding instructor Mark Thomas ensured. “The American Welding Society (AWS) is the governing body over welding in the structural steel industry.”
Thomas stated the SIC welding program has a passing rate of 95% for this type of certification. This year SIC students have been employed with BWXT and Saudi, both in Mount Vernon, IN, and the Boilermakers Local 363 in East St. Louis.
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) approval for candidacy was shared with the board as well. The Candidacy Presentation approval means that SIC meets all ACEN requirements to be granted initial accreditation. and the college may now complete a detailed self-study process to obtain full ACEN accreditation. Amy Murphy, Director of Nursing and Allied Health is leading the charge, and under her leadership, the nursing faculty have already begun to work on the self-study document.
“They hope to have this complete and submitted by midsemester of spring 2021. This will allow us to have an accreditation visit in Fall of 2021,” stated Gina Sirach, Dean of Academic Services at SIC. “The entire process is very detailed and requires us to demonstrate that we meet the criteria required for a quality nursing education program.”
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) now requires that all ADN programs in IL receive ACEN accreditation by December 2022.
Agreements with SIC Foundation were reviewed, in which no changes were recommended. President Rice is thankful for the cooperation with and support from the Foundation.
In terms of budget, Rice provided the board with samples of many other institutions engaged in cost-saving measures and layoffs in response to the financial impact COVID-19 has had on campuses in the country. President Rice is confident in Southeastern’s financial abilities.
“This reminds me of the Great Recession. SIC had to make some hard decisions, but we became a leader in fiscal management and accountability,” reflected Rice, then adding, “SIC has had strong audits and the best composite financial index (CFI) scores in its history in the past eight years.”
CFI scores are used to assess the fiscal health of educational institutions. The meeting was also an opportunity to share updates regarding SIC staff positions.
Evaluations and recommendations were considered on matters of re-employment of president and administrative cabinet positions. Other administrative personnel were considered, as well as staff and tenured personnel.
The resignation of part-time grounds/custodian Mark Stucker was approved, as was the resignation of assistant director of Financial Aid, Bethany Mathis. Cara Lehman was approved to become the new assistant director of Financial Aid. Amanda Payne will transfer from the position of administrative assistant to Dean of Academic Services to Lehman’s former position of administrative assistant to VP of Academic Affairs.
Per committee recommendation, the hiring of John Corum as academic adviser – ADA/International/Veterans passed. Corum holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Religious Studies from Western Kentucky University, earned his Master of Arts in English Literature from SIU Carbondale, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The motion to hire Tyler Bourland as Communications and Relations Specialist was also passed. Adjunct faculty were approved, too.
The trustees heard from Dr. Rice on the impact of COVID-19 on the college, particularly the impact on students. Many student testimonials were shared.
“SIC is engaged in many safety upgrades including making classrooms larger to accommodate social distancing, increasing sanitizing stations, installing glass barriers for front line staff, among many other precautions when we do go back,” Rice explained parts of the retrofitting of campus. “Summer will be remote for most part, and we will await direction from the state regarding Fall.”
Looking forward, Rice commented that Southeastern Illinois College can be a cost-effective and safer haven for students during this time of transition.
“We expect more local students to consider SIC as they may have hesitation about moving away in the Fall with an expected rise of COVID-19 which may occur about the middle of the term.”
The next meeting of the board will be held virtually Tuesday, May 19, at 6 p.m. More information about SIC can be found at www.sic.edu.